Are You Lovin' Your Passion Piece?

I meet a lot of people through meetup.com. Meetup allows people to create groups that others can join. Groups cater everything from writing to adventurous travelers to dog lovers to swingers (Uh...my friend told me about the swingers). So I decided to go to several self proclaimed geek groups to try and see why they love the things they love, the geek culture. I wasn't sure what I'd be looking for, since I wasn't going to change my books to their likings or preferences. But I did find something interesting.

Geeks are people too. Well, that wasn't the interesting part. But geeks are very passionate. I've yet to meet a non-passionate geek, or else they'd be the run-of-the-mill person. And what they're passionate about varies quite a bit.

We were all talking about what our favorite SciFi/Fantasy series were, why we loved it, and which one was better such as the classic Star Wars vs Star Trek heated debate. Most were able to pick sides. Some had to recuse themselves from choosing. Again, that's not interesting. What was insightful were the reasons behind their favorite SciFi/Fantasy stories.

Because geeks are people too, they love having their imaginations sparked and having deep conversations about what these stories mean, especially to them. For example, I personally love the original Star Wars series because of the philosophical aspects; my favorite being when Luke turned off his targeting computer and trusted the force, in essence trusting his own intuition and wisdom. Others stated they loved the social commentaries certain stories talked about like Starship Troopers, written by Robert A. Heinlin. Or the huge imaginative elements fantasies like Harry Potter portray that always delve deeper than what you see on the surface.

Whatever the reason, I realized one basic thing. Because geeks are very passionate, the storytellers must also be passionate about what they create, maybe be a little bit insane. And I think the more passionate we are about our stories, the more the audience will love them. Part of that love, for me anyways, is always the depth of the story, or simply put, what do I hope my readers will get (a deeper understanding of life?) aside from escaping their own world?

That's why I tend to be biased toward stories that have character or story arcs. There's always some sort of message that enlightens us to be a better person or make the world a better place.

One of my first writing conventions that I attended had a key speaker who was a best selling author. His poignant advise was to write what we're passionate about, what we think about everyday, what pulls us to write or tell stories. And he was right on. When actors make movies for money, we can see it. Their performances are flat. Stories are empty. We come out unchanged or unmoved. When actors are passionate about their roles, we can tell. Our heart sings when their characters succeed, cries in their pain, or rejoices in their growth. It's the actor's passion pieces.

So meeting fellow geeks only reaffirms what I had first thought when I researched what made certain authors successful. Write your passion pieces. Work on them. Love them. Stroke them. OK. I may have gone too far.

Why So Serious?

“Here...fix my watch. Your kind made it,” a bully had said, shoving his Casio watch at me. Thank tha lawd this wasn’t a recent event because sometimes my big mouth writes checks I can’t cash. This occurred during my junior high years. Obviously, what the bully said was racist.

Somthing's In My Ear
Somthing's In My Ear

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger." – Buddha

A friend of mine watched The Wolf of Wallstreet, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, directed by Martin Scorsese. My friend said it was racist because one of the characters was named Chester Ming “The Depraved Chinaman".

Are you fucking kidding me?

My sensitive friend was serious. I stated that maybe in real life that was Ming’s nickname, and given how the movie ended, Scorsese wasn’t going to make the PC choice and rid him of his moniker. Shit. None of Scorsese’s movies are PC.

"Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe." – Flannery O'Connor

“Learn to laugh at yourself,” I stated.

He argued that I hate my own culture because I mock Chinese accents, often greeting people with “Herro”.

“How important is your culture to you, buddy?” I asked. He rambled on with no clear answer.

“I know more Chinese than you do,” I said.

“And that’s the real shame,” he admitted.

When people spout about how important culture is, I usually never cry out against it. But I will analyze their lives and see how important it is; my friend talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. He doesn't speak a lick of Chinese. 

It’s like anything in life. If it’s important, you’ll do something about it.

Why Are We All Bald
Why Are We All Bald

When my niece gave birth to her daughter, she had read books, blogs, articles on how to raise children, researched the potential causes of autism, and began cooking every meal so she could control what her daughter ate. Diet was a strong suspect as the cause of autism due to the chemicals in processed foods.

My serious pal, however, stood his ground, assumed I hated my own kind, and we moved our conversation topic to women.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” – Marilyn Monroe

Cultural Rant

I had gone to a happy hour with a whole bunch of Asian peeps. Most of us didn’t know each other, so the most common question was “What do you do?” I said that I had two jobs: one’s for money to feed my body, the other is my passion to feed my soul. Everyone else answered with some form of IT, engineer, or finance. In the Asian culture, we’re taught from the womb that we are to take practical jobs. I don’t know, but Tom Cruise’s acting career has proven to be pretty practical.

Where the slanty eyes?

Where the slanty eyes?

Back in my day when I taught kids self-defense, my teacher had taken on a new student, who had been on this planet for three-and-a-half years. He could barely speak, couldn’t remember the names of the techniques to save his life, but he learned the movement like he learned to speak, and became an amazing talent. As this young prodigy moved toward his black belt, toward adulthood, my teacher and I began to have pretty severe disagreements with our school and the prevailing arrogance and ignorance that bred within the limited bindings. It’s funny how arrogance and ignorance always seem to go hand-in-hand. And this school was literally the pure definition of this.

Tombstone of Fluid Man

Tombstone of Fluid Man

We finally left the school as we sought for widespread knowledge, much like Bruce Lee leaving the classical mess for something more open, taking what works and throwing out the rest. This was not something our former school understood, since they added more and more crap that only bred more ignorance and of course more arrogance.

Why do I bring this up?

My teacher tried to convince the parents that their son would be better off with him. They couldn’t, wouldn’t leave the school, despite the now adult having spent most of his life with the same teacher. The mother, especially, wanted her son to have earn his blackbelt from a Chinese martial arts school. And here’s the funny part. The school wasn’t even run by Asians. Sure, the system was Chinese; though, I’m not sure what that means (no slanty eyes to mark the school). Sure, there were Chinese characters imbued all over the school. Sure, they even had Chinese dignitaries and masters that would come by and teach seminars. But do those things make a martial arts, school, or practitioner Chinese? A freakin' punch is a frakin' punch no matter who throws it.

International Village People

International Village People

It’s that word: culture. According to my dictionary, one of the definitions is: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

The customs of the school is Asian based, so not uniquely Chinese. The arts can be rooted back to Korea, Karate, some Kung Fu, but even the word Kung Fu is like saying Asian. There’s a lot of different Asians, and some of them Ajens don’t even consider themselves Asians. Most of the people teaching aren't even Asian. So when I heard that the mother didn’t want her son to be taught by my teacher because he wasn’t Asian, and she wanted her son to get his black from a Chinese based institution, I was beside myself, like I actually took a step to the side and was like “What? Get over yerself, lady.” And since the school had been based in the US, the achievements of that school, especially in international tournaments were considered US of Aye, not China, not any slanty-eyed nation.

The word culture has been on my mind since I started writing the 7th Province series because I’ve had to piece together the foundation of the society. A lot was drawn from my own experiences, a lot was invented, and a lot was used to help tell the story without giving too much away, through symbolism. Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert on what culture is, what it means, but I know this lady doesn’t really know what she was talking about. It’d be better if she had stated that she wanted her son to have the backing of an actual institution, and not by a single individual. As much as people see me as an American is how much I see this school as being Chinese.

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

Ultimately, she wanted to say that her son got her black belt from this school, not by an individual. And this is where culture and ego sort of mesh together, and it is from this place that I wrote the foundation of the culture of the 7th Province. Culture is very ego based. We see this in nations: America is the best country in the world. We see this in sports: My team won the championships. We see this in ethnicities: Blacks are the most athletic and can dance the best, or Asians are very disciplined. We see this in family: My dad can beat up your dad.

People throw the word culture around without knowing what they really mean. And some people love their culture so much, have so much pride in it, compare how much better it is than American culture that they’ve chosen to move here.

Just a Friday night rant.

Don't Judge Me By the Cover of My Book

I had just gotten some feed back from a friend who is an avid reader.  And one of the things that was interesting were the questions she'd written on post it notes, placed along the pages of my book. She had immediately asked questions about what certain things looked like, questions about the culture of my fantasy world, time line, etc. All of this within the first few pages.

Fall dammit!

Fall dammit!

There's a couple ways I can take this. A writer should always ignite questions within a reader's mind.  That's a good thing. Create interest.  Reward them by giving the answers or enough to at least spark debates like the movie Inception.

You talkin' to me?

You talkin' to me?

A writing example would be the Davinci Code. Robert Langdon always comes across plot elements that forces us, and him, to ask questions. Why was he called to aid in a murder investigation?  He's symbologist and the victim has a symbol carved into his chest. Did he do it?  We only met him when he got the call to help, so we're not sure.  But we find he didn't because of the victim's granddaughter. She confirms the French sergeant is trying to pin the crime on Langdon . Who's the nameless teacher?  We find out at the climax.

On and on with the questions but we eventually find out the answers.

So am I saying I'm just as great a writer as Dan Brown?

As I've lent my book out to people, they first see the book as not published and, therefore, not done by a professional.  They're judging the book not by it's cover but by it's credibility.  As a result, they're not patient enough to let their questions answer themselves, as I've made sure to do.

If she had placed the post it notes late in the book, then there would have been storytelling issues I would need to fix.  You can have certain questions linger on, like leaving the butler did it till the climax. Questions that either build the world or help move the plot along should be answered as we move along.

On the road again... 

On the road again... 

When we look at The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a post apocalyptic novel, we can't help but ask questions of time, setting, and what brought this disaster? But they're not answered.  I assume because McCarthy only wants the reader to focus on the father and the son, letting us be the judge of what brought the "flash". But would my friend question him?  Probably not. McCarthy is, after all, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.

So perception is key, and I did ask her to just read it and tell me if she enjoyed it. She said she did, but the post it notes stopped abruptly. Either her questions got answered or she didn't finish the book. Knowing her, she didn't finish. And I'm all right with that.  I can't make everybody happy. I can only make me happy.

They're all perfect

They're all perfect

And no.  I can't compare myself to Brown. How can one perfect cherry blossom be better than another?

How Old Are You?

One of the things I had to be clear about was the cultural elements of my fantasy. Is marriage a common thing like it is in our world?  Are there family dinners?  Or do people fend for themselves?  Or is it more like a socialist society where the bounties are shared?

In creating my world, I borrowed from different cultures.  Not that I studied any one of them in depth.  I didn't need to.  The elements I chose were used to convey an overall philosophy without explicitly writing it.  A couple of examples:

In the Matrix, the real world is not the real world.  And the world after being awakened was due to a choice of taking the red pill.  The whole movie is about choice. 

In Karate Man, aka Karate Kid, the man who believed in himself and was of pure heart won out.  Not the one with the bigger muscles and or more experience.

Fast and Furious is interesting.  If you gots the most fastest cars, the bestest finest chicks, and the deepestest voice with big ass muscles, then a plot or a message need not apply.  This is kinda true for Transformers.

Age just happens to be an important element.  For example, a toddler is referred as someone who's in the morning of their lives.  As they move into the coming of age, which just happens to be different for every one, they've entered the afternoon of their lives.  And as you may have guessed, once wisdom settles in, the person strolls into the evening of their lives.

There is a reason I refer to age this way.  And it ties neatly into the culture of the provinces.

I think about age a lot because so many people place some sort of limitation due to age.

Look up a guy named Randy Couture.  He's a UFC fighter who's currently 46 years old.  He takes on guys over a decade younger and wins.

One of my ex-employers said once he hit his thirties, his metabolism slowed, he got fatter, and felt tired.  He failed to see that as he grew older he did less and less.  When he dated his wife, they went out a lot, went on vacations, took walks.  Now that they're married with kids, they stay home a lot more, barely take any vacations, and any type of physical exertion has been removed.

Age had nothing to do with his physique.

I'm 37 years old.  I workout four times a week.  Yes, I like to look good.  So I'm a bit superficial.  Nothing wrong with that.  There is a more pertinent reason why I exercise.  When I studied kinesiology, one of my teachers was a physical therapist.  All of his clients were senior citizens, his specialty.  He said something that never left me.

"There's one truth about human beings.  You'll leave this world the same way you came in.  Bald, drooling, and pooping in a diaper."

I pressed my lips together, pondering what it's like taking a dump in diapers.  Then he said something that totally changed my view on exercise.  Exercise will improve the quality of life as we enter the evening of our lives.  I'm not sure if I'll do a number 2 in diapers.  I don't spend much time thinking about that.  But I've made sure exercise has become a part of my life.

Luckily, my family, my mom included, has embraced that as well.

One last thing about age.  I've now encountered about half a dozen men who shy away when asked how old they are?  WTF?  It's one thing that women shy away from this subject.  But men?  Is this a growing trend?  Have they become sensitive about their age?  Grow a set of brass balls.